Covid: how to counter the fourth wave?

Covid infection rates are on the rise again in many European countries. In Austria, new rules came into force on Monday under which only those with proof of vaccination or recovery will be allowed into bars, restaurants, and inside events or to use close-contact services like hairdressers. In Italy, the vaccination, recovery or test rule is now compulsory - even in the workplace. Europe's press continues to debate how to contain the fourth wave.

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Obosrewatel (UA) /

Fire unvaccinated doctors!

One reason the vaccination campaign in Ukraine has failed is that so many doctors are refusing the vaccine, comments professor of medicine Viktor Dosenko in Obosrevatel:

“The anti-vaccination movement among doctors makes me consider a factor that has somehow escaped the attention of the authorities: our medical education is in a calamitous state. ... An unvaccinated doctor today should be a dismissed doctor. These are terrible words, and indeed some people will be outraged by them, but this fact essentially proves that these doctors have understood nothing whatsoever about medicine, or about epidemiology - or that they have somehow forgotten everything they learned. They are causing irreparable damage.”

Dromos tis Aristeras (GR) /

Ineffective and divisive logic

In Greece, the vaccinated, recovered or tested rule has been in force in public places since Saturday and employees must present a negative test twice a week - at their own expense. Dromos tis Aristeras is unconvinced:

“Apart from being authoritarian, these measures could even prove harmful because they reinforce the logic that the vaccinated are invulnerable and exempt from all measures and controls for containing the pandemic. ... It is obvious that this logic is not only divisive but also ineffective, since vaccinated people are also getting sick and transmitting the virus, often without even knowing it. ... Since society does not function in bubbles, it is almost certain that the virus will continue to spread despite all these measures.”

Kristeligt Dagblad (DK) /

A high price to pay

In Denmark, too, where there have been no restrictions in place since the beginning of September, the government needs to rethink its approach even if it hurts, Kristeligt Dagblad admonishes:

“What will happen to the fantastic level of trust in the Danish authorities so far? There is no alternative but to reintroduce the Covid pass, among other measures, but as many politicians like to say: everything has its price. Right now this means provoking a new wave of discontent and undermining people's trust in the authorities. That's a high price.”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

Punishment is not helping

Instead of pushing through the "2G" rule whereby only vaccinated or recovered persons are allowed to access most public places, Germany must reintroduce free testing, taz demands:

“Vaccinated people can also unknowingly infect others in public places. Tests reduce the chance of infecting others. And even if it sounds surprising, the 2G policy of denying unvaccinated persons entry to bars, restaurants, museums and so on is counterproductive. First off, it has clearly not boosted the vaccination rate. And secondly, 3G rules also ensure that unvaccinated people test regularly before entering bars and cinemas. ... It is time to stop fantasising about punishing the unvaccinated. The new motto of the pandemic response should be: test, test, test.”

Krónika (RO) /

Setting a dangerous legal precedent

In Romania, students went to court to oppose the compulsory vaccination introduced by the Medical University of Târgu-Mureș and won their case in the first instance. This sets a dangerous precedent, Zoltán Ábrám, a professor at the university, warns in Krónika:

“Only ten percent of all students are unvaccinated, so the risk is low under the present circumstances. ... But there are worrying questions concerning the future: what would happen if, for example, parents who refuse to vaccinate their children against infectious diseases were to win one case after another before the human rights courts? We should think carefully about where we are heading.”

Népszava (HU) /

Budapest passing the buck

In Hungary, employers can oblige their employees to have the Covid vaccination. Népszava finds this approach problematic:

“All the burdens of refusing vaccination are borne by employees in Hungary, because they can be forced to take unpaid leave for up to a year. ... But in its current form this mandatory vaccination also puts employers in a difficult situation. ... On Friday morning the prime minister made it clear on Kossuth Rádió that the government was no longer able to convince anyone to get vaccinated so it was now up to the social partners. Once again, this is nothing but shifting the responsibility to others.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Unvaccinated must stay at home

The freedoms of radical anti-vaxxers must be restricted, writes health law professor Andre den Exter in NRC Handelsblad:

“For them the only possibility is even more restrictive measures in the workplace, and working from home or a leave of absence must become the norm. There is nothing discriminatory about this. It remains an individual choice. Yes, such measures will keep people away from hospitals and schools. But they will create a safe working, home and living environment for others. Seen in this light, they represent an act of mercy by those refusing vaccination towards their fellow human beings.”

Adevărul (RO) /

Convince, don't force

The decision to get vaccinated is a personal one and should remain so, writes lawyer Claudia Postelnicescu in a guest commentary for Adevărul:

“This is what a vaccination pass does: it obliges us to openly declare that we are among those who are part of today's society and that we are not outsiders, regardless of our personal convictions or medical history. This is basically an abuse of our rights. ... The state should not force upon us a decision that is and must remain personal - vaccination. The state only needs to convince people that vaccination is the better choice, but it must not force it on them by making access to public spaces or the workplace dependent on a vaccination pass.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Follow Italy's example

Vaccination certificates should become compulsory across Europe, warns virologist Antonella Viola in La Stampa:

“In Eastern European countries, the percentage of those who have been vaccinated is so low that the WHO fears the worst, namely a fourth wave with more than half a million deaths on the continent. The only way to prevent this is to vaccinate everyone quickly. Elderly people, young people and also children as soon as possible. ... In the meantime, until all European citizens have been vaccinated, the action radius of the virus should be restricted everywhere by making the Covid pass compulsory. Italy is setting a good example here. It has shown not only foresight but also the courage to take difficult decisions. Let us hope, for everyone's sake, that Europe will follow suit.”

Dnevnik (SI) /

Force is unacceptable

There's no point in dividing society into vaccination supporters and vaccination opponents, physician Matjaž Figelj writes in his column for Dnevnik:

“In the case of Covid vaccination, we can't speak of classic anti-vaxxers because we're dealing with new vaccines about whose mechanisms of action and potential side effects too little is known. So it's more prudent to speak of people for whom vaccination is acceptable or unacceptable. People have the right to think differently and still be equal members of society. Vaccination against Covid-19 is voluntary. Any form of force is inappropriate and inadmissible.”